COMMENTARY | Entering his third season with the Cincinnati Bengals, quarterback Andy Dalton has some work to do if the team is going to make another postseason appearance and actually claim a victory.
That's not to say Dalton's game has been bad thus far. In fact, his game is much more positive than negative. Dalton makes smart decisions, spreads the ball around well, has shown the mental capacity to orchestrate comeback wins under pressure and more.
The problems that have plagued Dalton over the course of his two years as a pro are pretty simple to nail down. Should he improve on these deficiencies this offseason and put it all together on the field, the 2013 edition of the Bengals could go a long way.
Let's take a look at three things Dalton must get right in 2013.
Improved Pocket Presence
Headlining the things Dalton must do is perhaps his biggest issue and is one that has a serious impact on the following items down the list.
Too many times in the past, especially in his sophomore campaign, Dalton has dropped back and felt pressure that simply was not there. That or he was under pressure but made the wrong decision or simply held the ball too long.
This issue was no more obvious than in the team's postseason matchup with the Houston Texans when Dalton dropped back, felt pressure that wasn't there and overshot a wide open A.J. Green in the end zone.
Dalton is backed by a strong offensive line that remains intact from a year ago after the re-signing of right tackle Andre Smith. The effectiveness of the offensive line should be helped even more in 2013 with the addition of a versatile running back in Giovani Bernard to help mitigate the predictability of the offense as a whole.
Pocket presence is something that can be developed over time. With the additions the coaching staff has made combined with two years of experience, this is something Dalton has to get right in 2013.
Stop Taking So Many Sacks
One of the direct results of Dalton's shaky pocket presence at times is how many sacks he takes. According to Rotoworld, Dalton took 17 coverage sacks last season, which led the NFL.
To keep things short, this means Dalton held the ball way too long, resulting in unnecessary sacks. As we all know, taking an untimely sack is something that can instantly kill an offensive drive in any scenario.
In 2013, Dalton has to have a better sense of when to let go of the ball. Just as defensive backs can only cover targets for so long, offensive lineman can only block pass-rushers for so long. Dalton must find a better balance between comfort and urgency in the pocket next season to prevent unnecessary sacks.
Accuracy on the Deep Ball
Surprised? The issue touted by most when it comes to Dalton's game is his arm strength on deep passes, but that isn't the real issue. Does Dalton lack arm strength? At times, but on sharp routes to the outside, not on deep balls.
In fact, Dalton has shown a propensity to overshoot his targets on deep routes. The issue with Dalton's game in regards to the deep portion of the field is with his accuracy.
When you have a target like Green running said deep routes poor accuracy can be forgiven. As coverages against Green become more elaborate, Dalton will have to find the target better. The same goes for most other receivers he targets deep.
An accurate deep ball is another element of the quarterback position that can develop over time. In 2013, Dalton must take the next step in this area to create another consistent dynamic in the Bengals offense.
Chris Roling is a graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. His work has appeared on Bleacher Report, Fansided, The Cincinnati Enquirer and more. He is the co-host of a Cincinnati Bengals podcast, @BengalsCentral
You can follow Chris on Twitter @Chris_Roling
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